C.P. Snow talks at length about the polarization of and the existence of two distinct cultures, where “This polarisation is sheer loss to us all. To us as people, and to our society. It is at the same time practical and intellectual and creative loss.” Snow writes that this loss owes it to a degree of incomprehension on both sides. This argument of the humanities versus the sciences is something that still exists strongly today, but I wonder if we can approach it from a different perspective.
Snow goes on to write that scientists don’t read, that one “tried” Dickens but it didn’t work out – but maybe a bigger question for our time now is if anyone reads today? Is this lack of literacy/reading for reading’s sake a disease of just the scientific or of the whole human race? Snow does mention earlier that in scientific culture, “its members need not, and of course often do not, always completely understand each other,” so perhaps he’d be inclined to lump the nonreaders with the scientific, seeing that they might have a scientific mood about them.
So while I agree that there is a versus going on between the sciences and the humanities, and that this incomprehension on both sides ought to be remedied somehow, the argument that seems to go on today leans more towards defending the sciences as having a stake in real world relevancy, in its lucrativeness, and everything seems to be against the humanities. What exactly are you going to do with an English degree? Again, that feeling might be skewed since I’m in the humanities (so I’d feel the brunt of the attacks anyway). But again, it seems like it’d be easier to just have everyone be open to reading/literacy/literary exercises more than it would be to encourage everyone to dabble in the sciences (a very surface point but something to consider). If science is the bread, literature/the humanities might be the butter, a new nice spice to life – and that’s not necessarily bad is it?